18 March 2014

The new childcare subsidy in the UK

The IFS:
"Today’s announcements indicate that the Government’s main motive is to help parents move into work. As we pointed out in the IFS 2014 Green Budget, we know remarkably little about the impact of the policies to support childcare that have been introduced in England in recent years. And there is no consistent evidence from other countries that childcare support has large effects on parental labour supply. While today’s announcements bring welcome simplifications to the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme, and an increase in generosity that will certainly be welcomed by families on Universal Credit using childcare, and better-off families who spend more than £6,000 a year on childcare, the extent to which it will deliver its intended goals is essentially unknown."
and Chris Dillow:
"It's fitting that Nick Clegg should have announced an increase in the state subsidy for childcare, because the policy is a sanctimonious front for something that is inegalitarian and economically illiterate."

17 March 2014

What should DFID do internationally (i.e. not in client countries)?

DFID is discussing what their priority international actions should be over the next 2-5 years and beyond. By international actions they mean actions that use their spending, effort and influence to cause something to happen outside the borders of the intended beneficiary countries, but which indirectly benefits them. This broad definition includes global public goods, such as international financial regulations or a global climate deal; but also spending to alleviate problems with high spillover effects across many poor countries such as via peacekeeping efforts or communicable disease; or actions which improve the actions functioning of global markets. In short, they aim to refresh their possible international policy agenda with new or better ideas. 
Stefan Dercon has been asked to lead an initial consultation both within and outside DFID to set up a focused set of priorities and to ensure that DFID concentrates on those international actions that are both the most important for poverty reduction and where DFID could have the most impact.Please download a short note that sets out the task and the context.

07 March 2014

Development as... a better postal service

Francis from Oregon writes:
"I am a young postcard collector working on a geography project. For this project, I would really love a postcard from Sudan or South Sudan. 
Do you know of anyone who would be happy to send me one? I would be so happy and grateful for your help. 
Of course in return I would be more than happy to send the sender a beautiful postcard (or anything else they might need) from Oregon in the U.S. 
Francis from Oregon http://the-geo-nerd.blogspot.com"
So if anyone in South Sudan wants a penfriend, there you go. All I can offer is some post-related development marginalia.

First, the speed and reliability with which post services deliver letters is a reasonably reliable indicator of state capacity more generally. Countries which are members of the International Postal Union agree to return any misaddressed letters to the sending country within 30 days. So a team of economists sent letters from the US to fictitious addresses in 159 countries (10 letters per country), to see how fast they came back. The results tally pretty well with expectation, Finland and Norway sent them all back, Sudan and Somalia sent back none. And the time it took correlates with other measures of government capacity. They go on to make an important point:
"we used these measures to argue that an important reason for poor government in developing countries is not corruption or patronage, but rather the same basic low productivity that plagues the private sector in these countries as well.   Such low productivity is related to inputs and technology, but also to management.    In some ways, it is not surprising that a measure of the quality of government constructed to be free of political influences in fact correlates with standard determinants of productivity; yet it is still important to recognize that not all bad government is caused by politics."
In addition to furthering our understanding of governance and state capacity, post offices play an important immediate role in providing financial access in many countries, particularly for the poor, the less educated, those not working for a wage, and those living in rural areas.

04 March 2014

Coach Zoran and his African Tigers

A new documentary, about the first ever manager of the first ever South Sudanese national football team. His name is Zoran, and he swears like a trooper. It's an entertaining story, filmed in 2012 and set against the backdrop of some beautiful footage of Juba amidst the excitement and optimism of independence (in 2011). Particularly poignant due to the recent return to conflict.

It's available on the BBC iPlayer for the next month, watch it while you can (there are free VPN solutions for those not in the UK).